February 25, 2011

Alzheimer’s … Or Something Else?

(Ivanhoe Newswire) -- What doctors initially say is Alzheimer's disease (AD), could actually turn out to be something else. New research shows that AD and other dementing illnesses may be easily misdiagnosed in the elderly.

Over the last 30 years the number of people diagnosed with AD in the U.S. has skyrocketed. According to the CDC, AD affects an estimated five million Americans. But this study found that many of those patients could have been misdiagnosed.

"Diagnosing specific dementias in people who are very old is complex, but with the large increase in dementia cases expected within the next 10 years in the United States, it will be increasingly important to correctly recognize, diagnose, prevent and treat age-related cognitive decline," study author Lon White, MD, MPH, with the Kuakini Medical System in Honolulu, was quoted as saying.

For the study, researchers autopsied the brains of more than 400 men, who had died at an average age of 87 years old. More than 200 of them had been diagnosed with a dementia when they were alive, which is most commonly associated with AD.

Researchers found that about half of those diagnosed with AD did not have enough of the brain lesions characterizing that condition to support the diagnosis. Most of those in whom the diagnosis of AD was not confirmed had at least one, or a combination of other brain lesion sufficient to explain the dementia. Researchers found that because AD is so well known, other causes of dementia like Lewy bodies (a progressive brain disease and a main cause of degenerative dementia in the elderly), and generalized brain atrophy may be overlooked.

"Larger studies are needed to confirm these findings and provide insight as to how we may more accurately diagnose and prevent AD and other principal dementing disease processes in the elderly," Dr. White Was quoted as saying.

SOURCE: American Academy of Neurology, February 23, 2011